HC Deb 15 May 1916 vol 82 cc1231-53

Whenever two hundred thousand married men have been called to general service with the Colours under the provisions of this Act it shall cease to be lawful under any powers contained in this Act to call any married man to the Colours except in so far as Parliament may by Resolution otherwise determine.—[Mr. Holt.]

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

It raises a totally different subject from that which was under discussion this afternoon, and I want now to direct the attention of the House to some of the financial aspects of the proposal, and to suggest a safeguard which might properly be added to the Bill, as well as to make sure that the Act, when it is passed, shall not be liable to have an effect very different from that indicated by the Prime Minister when he first introduced this subject to the attention of the House. In the Second Reading Debate on this Bill, when I had the honour to move its rejection, I stated that my objection to the measure rested not only on the grounds which we have been discussing up to the present moment, but also from the fear I had that it would have an adverse effect upon the financial and industrial stability of the country, to which it is admitted that we have to look as much as to our military power. I shall not go into the details of the general shortage of labour, so well known I think by hon. Gentlemen throughout the country, and which threatens to impair the efficiency of our industrial work, which threatens to impair both the maintenance of our sea power, whether it be through the Navy or the mercantile marine, and which threatens to impair our power of assisting our Allies financially. Suffice it to say that I think it will harldy be disputed by anyone that there is almost a universal shortage of labour in this country, and we must be very careful that the shortage is not made more than is necessary.

I pointed out in the course of the previous Debate the importance of maintaining our staying-power, and I was then told by the Minister of Munitions, who I think has made no attempt to meet my position by argument, that I was saying things which were unpatriotic. I know that the right hon. Gentleman had the same argument addressed to himself fifteen or sixteen years ago, and I pay the same attention to his observations now as he did to the observations which were made about him then. But apparently since then he has become a convert to my view. Speaking at Conway on the 6th May the Minister of Munitions said: Time is not an Ally. It is a doubtful neutral at the present moment, and has not yet settled on our side. I think that is one of the most alarming statements about the prospects of the War that has yet been made by any person in a responsible position. I do not believe there has been a person in this House or in the country who did not believe that time is on our side if we only turned one or two awkward corners in the early stages of the War. On that we are all agreed. But now the Minister of Munitions tells us that time is a doubtful neutral, and that it is not certain it is going to settle on our side. It is very necessary that we should make certain that time is on our side, because of all the Allies in war or anything time, without exception, is the most satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman also laid down in that speech the very proper view as to the right of every person to criticise the Government proposal. The right hon. Gentleman said: After all, in the Council Chamber you want free expression of opinion. You want a variety of opinions expressed, and the height of wisdom is in knowing, not what counsel to give, but which counsel to take. Many men many minds, and if there are not many minds you may depend upon it there are not very many men. They are not men but automatons, and what I want to know is this, whether the nation in a great war wants counsellors or mere penny-in-the-slot machines. If the latter, then all I can say is that I desire to be no part of the equipment. I am entirely in agreement with the position that if anyone thinks that he has a real point to raise, and holds it sincerely, then he has a real right to do so. In regard to the Bill, the only limitation of numbers at present is that we have voted in the Estimate 4,000,000 men. Within that limitation the Government can take as many men as they can get. They can take all the married men and reject the single men, if they think fit to do so, and they can go on, when they have got the 4,000,000 men, and have lost 50,000 by casualties, to take another 50,000 men; so that, if this measure is passed, there is practically no limit to the number of men who may be taken for the purpose of the War. That is a very different proposition from the proposition which the Prime Minister proposed to us. I am going to read to the House what it was the Prime Minister said in the Secret Session, as published in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I want to put before the House what was the original proposal which the Government recommended: (1) That the Government, recognising that the necessary numbers required for the discharge of our military obligations will not be available for service at the time required under the present arrangement, agree that an immediate effort be made to obtain the men required by voluntary enlistment from amongst the unattested married men. (2) That if at the end of four weeks, ending 27th May, 50,000 of these men have not been secured by direct enlistment, the Government will forthwith ask Parliament for compulsory powers. (3) That if any week after 27th May, 15,000 men have not been secured by direct enlistment, the same course will be taken, any surplus over 15,000 in one week being carried over to the next. (4) That the arrangement in paragraphs (2) and (3) are to hold good until 200,000 unattested men have been obtained. In the meantime the position will be under constant review by the Government. It was pointed out that as under this scheme all available unattested married men would be enlisted either voluntarily or by compulsion, the main ground alleged for the release of attested married men would disappear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, col. 2464, Vol. LXXXI.] I ask the House to observe what it was the Prime Minister said. He pointed out that 200,000 unattested married men was the whole number which would probably be available for military service. In his speech on the 2nd May he again speaks of the number which is available— that is to say, that can be spared from industry without incapacitating us in the discharge of our other responsibilities, which, in our judgment, are quite as essential to the successful prosecution of the War as the maintenance of a fixed number of men at the front."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1916, col. 2613, Vol. LXXXI.] The original plan in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Secret Session was that which was contained in his speech on the 2nd of May. I submit we ought to be certain that this Bill does not go beyond the Prime Minister's pledge, and does not authorise a greater withdrawal of men from industry than was originally proposed by the Prime Minister. I desire to draw attention to one effect of this taking of the married men. It has been admitted publicly that it cannot be done without very largely increasing the allowance to their dependants, and that payment in money must be made in order to save them from particular hardships. If that is so, then the cost will be very much increased, and you will add to the Army large numbers of very expensive soldiers, and you will also be increasing the number of the Army very considerably above the number which we possessed at the time our last financial statement was made. In other words, the whole cost of maintaining the Army must be very much greater than was contemplated by the Vote of Credit, and must bring the cost of the War to a figure very much more than the £5,000,000 sterling per day which was then given to us.

Therefore we have to look at this question very carefully, and the House ought to keep a very jealous eye on what is being done in the way of taking soldiers for the Army. We ought to be very certain that we give to the Executive no more power than that for which they have proved up to the hilt the most urgent case. Nothing under this Clause would prevent the enlistment of men who come forward voluntarily. When 200,000 men have been taken, not into the Reserve, but to the service of the Colours, the power to take more of these married men by compulsion will be suspended till the Government come to Pariament and obtain a Resolution by which that power may be reopened to a limited extent. I submit that this is a sound and proper proposal to make, and one which will safeguard the resources of this country from being frittered away by the War Office. We must remember that the War Office are not the sole judges of these things. The War Office very naturally look at the matter from their own point of view, which is to provide as many soldiers as they possibly can for the fighting line. I find it no fault with the War Office for holding that point of view. It is a point of view they are perfectly entitled to hold and to look at the matter from that point of view only. The Government and Parliament are entitled to look at it from a different point of view. They are entitled to see that the military effort does not grow out of proportion to the other sides of our effort, naval and financial, and it is for us to see that those two other aspects of our effort, which, admittedly by everybody, are more important than the military aspect, should not be choked and stifled and ruined by excessive development of military strength. I submit that this proposed new Clause has that effect. It limits the number of men to 200,000, which the Prime Minister assured us was the full number which could be taken without injury to vital interests. It leaves the Government free, if at a later date they come to the conclusion that 200,000 can be exceeded, to come to the House and ask for another 100,000 with no new Bill and no new discussion, but merely a Resolution passed by the two Houses of Parliament.


I beg to second the Motion.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

It is of great importance, as my hon. Friend has stated, that labour forces should not be unduly depleted. He also said that unless some limitation such as this was inserted in the Bill, that there is no extent to which the military authorities could not go in withdrawing men from industrial employment if the House of Commons was willing to vote a sufficiently large total for the establishment of the Army. But surely that is not so. Each case now is judged individually on its merits, and each trade is also reviewed by the Board of Trade and by the Committee which considers this matter. If in any particular trade it is essential that no more men should be withdrawn, then the recruiting officers are instructed accordingly, or exemptions are given to the men in that trade. For example, with regard to the miners, no more miners may be withdrawn from work underground, that has been so for several months past, unless by special permission from the Home Office. Many other trades are starred or badged as exempted trades. Apart from those trades where those considerations apply generally, if in any industry or business it can be shown before the tribunals that a man is really indispensable, and that he is, in fact, better employed in the national interest in his trade than by being drafted into the Army, he is thereupon exempted from service.


He may be.


Of course, the matter has to be considered.


The military authorities are now pressing that the men should be taken.


It depends on the circumstances of the case.


Not quite.


He may be exempted. I think the tribunals are quite alive to the fact that many persons are really necessary for the maintenance of national industries. The point of view here is which is the best method to choose. My hon. Friend would fix a quite arbitrary limit of 200,000 men to go and no more. It is possible that you might get the right 200,000 or the wrong 200,000. Our method is to say that those who are essential to industry must be maintained, must be retained no matter what their number is, and that the others should be allowed to go. The Prime Minister said in our proposal that was made before this Bill was produced that the plan was to recruit up to 200,000, but that meantime the whole situation was to be kept in the constant review of the Government, and there was no intention in our minds that the 200,000 was to be regarded as a definite and final limit. Two hundred thousand were taken as the number probably available from among this class in the first instance, and after those had been obtained, and while they were being obtained the matter was to be under constant review. Let the House imagine what would be the position if this proposal were accepted, and it should be legal to take men up to 200,000 and no more. It would be almost a lottery whether any individual man had to go or not. It would depend partly upon chance whether he was taken amongst the first batches of men or whether he was placed in the later batches. Or more likely it would depend upon the degree with which he succeeded in procrastinating, appealing, and getting his case postponed by one means or another, so that when the hour struck and the two-hundredth man had been obtained he should still not be included within the Army. What would occur when the hour did strike? Any man taken after that moment would have been taken illegally, and if the Army tried to retain him I suppose they would be liable to legal proceedings.


It has happened continually that men have been called up before they were due. There were a number of cases under the Derby scheme. Owing to an Amendment carried, certain men who had been called up were released or treated as married men, and transferred to later groups.


They were men who had enlisted voluntarily—a very different thing from when you are calling up a man compulsorily against his will. If you have an arbitrary limit in number any individual man beyond that limit will have been illegally obtained. You might have the most ludicrous situation in respect of these men. My last objection to the proposal is that my hon. Friend suggests that when 200,000 men have been obtained no more should be called up to the Colours except in so far as Parliament may by Resolution otherwise determine. That means that once again the House of Commons and, I presume, the House of Lords, should have to reopen this question and rediscuss it. If there is one desire more widespread than another amongst Members of the House of Commons it is, I believe, "Let us at last get done with this question; let us put it upon a permanent and definite basis, and not be called upon within a few weeks or months to rediscuss ab initio the whole question of compulsory military service." For these reasons I trust the House will not accept my hon. Friend's proposal.

9.0 P.M.


I had no intention of speaking in support of this Clause, but after hearing the Home Secretary's statement I feel bound to say a word or two. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham is amply justified in bringing this proposal before the House. We have a right to ask the Government, even if they are not prepared to accept this Clause, to give us some assurance that the argument under which this last Compulsion Bill has been introduced was really honestly intended to contain the truth. No one can deny that the Prime Minister, both in the Secret Session, according to the OFFICIAL REPORT, to which he himself must have been a party, and in his subsequent speech to this House, gave the House to understand that the real reason and objective of the scheme which he was about to propose was to raise a number of unattested married men to the extent of 200,000, and no more. If words mean anything, the Prime Minister meant that. I take it that the Prime Minister is to-day the head of the Government, and that if he is to retain his position as the head, it is for the other members of the Government to carry out his intention even in his absence. The Home Secretary told us that, from the point of view of preserving, as it is so necessary they should be preserved, our great national industries, as far as it may be, unimpaired, it was unnecessary to lay down such a limit as this. Why? Because, he said, the instructions of the Government were so precise, the careful and meticulous examination by the tribunals so admirable and judicial, that only those men would be taken, even if there is no limit, who can be properly spared from the industries of the country. In holding this view the Home Secretary appears to me to have the merest surface knowledge of what is going on. If he imagines for a moment that all the tribunals are so reviewing the case of each applicant for exemption that they take a wide survey of British industry, that they consider in all its detail the financial position of the country, and that, after weighing these things with the utmost care and circumspection, they decide that Tom Jones may stop but that Bill Smith may go, I can only tell him that that is not the sort of thing that is going on all over the country. What is going on is this: Every tribunal has been stimulated and urged that it is its duty to get as many men as ever it can rake in.

I put this point to the Home Secretary; he can investigate it if he thinks it worthy of attention. It is a fact that in the great industrial hard-working business districts of the country a far greater number of men in proportion to population has already been taken than in the more easy-going districts. In the great northern industrial parts of the country, say north of the Dee, at least 50 per cent. of the New Armies have been obtained. In many parts of the country where men are not so keen and are not so imbued with the businesslike desire to throw all their energy into the task that we have in hand, in those more sleepy and more easy-going parts there has not been anything like the effort to obtain men that there has been in those districts where men can less easily be spared. I remember being asked some time ago in a Government Department to what extent in my opinion a certain great trade in this country was embarrassed. I said then—it is months ago now—that this great export trade was already unable to export within 75 per cent. of its customary amount. It is on these great export trades, as the Prime Minister has told us over and over again, that to a great extent the financial stability and position of this country, and the financing of our Allies, depends, and must depend. If I were asked that question again to-day, I should have to say that that 25 per cent. of ability had gone to 30 or 40 per cent. I should have to say another thing, that even if we have at present 60 per cent. of our ability and capacity to manufacture and produce, the depletion in our transport service and the extraordinary difficulty of shipping and carrying our goods to foreign markets makes it impossible even to apply that 60 per cent. Unless the Government waken up, unless they do seriously take this great question in hand, nothing but disaster is in front of us.

My hon. Friend was reproved the other day from the Treasury Bench by the Minister of Munitions, who dared him to suggest that we could not stand out the course at the furious speed we were now urging ourselves upon it. It may be a pleasant thing to say, and we want to say it in face of the whole world, that our capacities are inexhaustible and our energies are unimpaired, but, Sir, there is the hard truth that must be faced. The ability of this country in this War is greater than any other country on the earth, and it is the sorrow, despair, and confusion of our enemies. That, however, does not say that we ought not to be cautious. Of course we must win the War. But there is no reason why we should not strive to come out of the War with as much of our resources, energy, and power as is possible. We have been told that more than 200,000 men of this type cannot be spared from industry. We have been told it by the head of the Government himself. If the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Government really intend to carry out his declaration, and if they cannot put this Clause in the Bill, let one of them get up and say that they will watch this question most carefully, and most assiduously, and will limit the taking to the 200,000 men, who are really the basis of this proposal.


I regard the attitude of the Government on this particular Amendment as a test of their sincerity on this Bill. The Prime Minister told us in the Secret Session—and we had it afterwards deliberately repeated to us in the subsequent Session—that calculations had been made whereby the Army Council had decided that a certain course was necessary. To maintain eighty-three divisions in the field provision had been made to raise men by means of the compulsory Act which we passed last January, and from other sources, which, with the added 200,000 men, and only 200,000 men, would enable that force to be maintained in the field.


For how long?


Allow me to continue what I was going to say. That plan was to allow three months in which these 200,000 men should be raised. The Bill was afterwards introduced in its present form, and under this Bill the Government are demanding power, in one month, not to raise 200,000 men of military age out of 1,100,000 unattested married men, but every man of military age who can be secured out of that number! The right hon. Gentleman tells us that our safeguard is in the action of the tribunals. Has he watched the conduct of the tribunals? Has he seen the pressure brought to bear by the military representatives on the tribunals? Not only have they been parties to the discussion, but they have acted practically as members of the tribunal, and the tribunals have been pressed to refuse as many exemptions as possible. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the fact that each case, I think he said, had to be considered individually, as to whether men could or could not be spared? How is it possible for the tribunals to deal with individual cases in detail, and to take a broad view of the necessities and requirements of the situation? Already trade is hampered and hindered to an extent we did not dream of a few months ago. Already orders are weeks and in some cases months behind. Materials cannot be obtained for manufacture. Transport is all upside down. Our industries are being hampered and hindered at a time when demands upon them are more than ever they were. We have raised 5,000,000 of men before this Bill was introduced into the House. We have only authorised the raising of 4,000,000. I do not quite understand how the two figures can be reconciled, but from first to last we have actually contributed 5,000,000 of men to the Army and Navy by voluntary effort, and we are, by means of our exports and by our loans to our Allies, practically maintaining 3,000,000 of their forces in the field, in addition to the millions we are ourselves contributing.

Is it necessary to go still further, making more difficult our effective contribution to the winning of this War? Every man unnecessarily taken from industry and turned into a soldier will be a source, not of strength, bat of weakness. It will make less effective than it otherwise would be our contribution to the success of the Allies. I sincerely hope that in view of the statement of the Prime Minister that only 200,000 men were required, at any rate for the next three months, over and above those provided for otherwise, that the right hon. Gentleman will consent to limit the number to be taken, so that we may know where we can stop before we have gone so far as to cripple, hinder, and weaken our forces in the field instead of strengthening them.


As a Lancashire Member one whose Constituents are largely interested in the cotton industry, I should like to know whether the Government are going to give any indication of the number they propose to take. I am fully in favour of this Bill. I have always voted for it, and I am going to vote for it again; but I do not see, while we support the Bill in principle and practice, that that should prevent us asking the Government for some general declaration of the numbers they mean to take, or aim to take, under this Bill. It is a very serious thing indeed for Lancashire. If some indication of the numbers can be given it would enable masters and men to make their arrangements, to look forward and to cope with the difficult times which are coming, and it would, I think, give satisfaction in the county.


I must say that I think my right hon. Friend must feel that he made a rather perfunctory and thin reply to this important Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Hexham, and which raises a most vital issue. I must confess considerable disappointment that we have not had from the Government a more serious justification of the extraordinary change of front from the time the Prime Minister announced that what he required was 200,000 men out of the un-attested married men to this Bill, which enables the Government to take the whole of the unattested married men if they see fit to do so. My right hon. Friend had his opportunity of justifying the action of the Government. What was the position? The Prime Minister told us that if we got 200,000 of these unattested married men by the second week in August, then we should have got as many men as the Government thought it safe to take. We had, until the second week of August, to get these men at a certain rate of speed, but without any explanation from the Government at all, after an extraordinarily unfortunate attempt to introduce a partial Compulsion Bill, the Government have brought in a Bill which takes the whole of those unattested married men, if the Government think fit to do so. They have done that without any explanation at all of the reason for the change. I am perfectly well aware that the Prime Minister is away on important business, but I think the House of Commons is entitled to ask from the Government why this change has been made.

The Prime Minister has never concealed his views of the important issues raised in this new Clause. He has always, as it seems to me, most carefully studied the problem, and he has always said that the reservoir of men from which the Army could be drawn was conditioned by our supplying first of all the Navy, then the munitions for the Navy and Army, then keeping up our great staple exports, and only when you have supplied all those things do you get the reservoir of men from which you can draw for your Army. The Prime Minister told us as definitely as could be that 200,000 of the married unattested men was the maximum number which the Government thought it desirable to take by August. Provided they got that number, they were not going to resort to compusion at all. How is it the Government has changed their policy and offer no explanation at all to the House and the country? I can assure the Government it is not because I am opposed to the principle of compulsion that I am now speaking of the limit of the number for the Army, but I can assure the Government the whole country is disturbed and distressed at the apparent failure of the Government to dwell upon those other factors in our national problem. The Government realise that the burden we are carrying is not purely a military burden. They know that every great industry is depleted of labour at the present time. Employers and workmen in those industries are perfectly aware of the state in which our industries are falling, and it is singular that the Government, if the President of the Board of Trade and the Prime Minister have stated the conditions of the problem fairly, when they come to deal with this Compulsory Service Bill, refuse to impose a condition upon themselves which would limit them to the number which the Prime Minister declared can be safely taken. What is the reason given by my right hon. Friend for refusing to put in this limit? He does not say the Prime Minister was wrong in his estimate of the number of men. The time has not come to judge whether it was right or wrong. They said they had reviewed the circumstances, and the Prime Minister announced that if they got 200,000 men by August that was enough. August is not here, but only May. Why then will they not accept the limit? If they found by August that the limit was inconvenient, it would be very easy for them to come to the House and tell the House so frankly. What is the objection of the right hon. Gentleman to come to the House?

I think if there is one thing on which this House, which represents all classes of the country, should be consulted it is on a matter of this kind, when you are going further to deplete our great national industries, and one of my great objections to granting to the control of the Government the whole body of adult men between the ages of eighteen and forty-one is that it releases the Government from the control of Parliament. If it is necessary under new circumstances to enlarge the Army they should come to the House and tell it so. I do not think it is at all a good thing that the Government should have this uncontrolled power to settle the size of the Army and take as many men as they like. I would give a reason why they themselves should welcome this protection by Parliament. It is protection to them. So long as there is no limit imposed, so long as they have power to call the whole of the men of this country between the ages of eighteen and forty-one, they have no bulwark to resist the demands of the War Office. As the mover of the Clause has said, the War Office, looking at the military problem only, naturally asks for men, and more men, and still more men, and if the Government have not the power to say to them that they cannot do it without going to Parliament and arguing the case there, they are almost powerless to resist, and the inevitable result will be that, under the pressure of the War Office, the Government, unprotected by Parliament, will yield, and our great trades will be depleted more than they ought to be depleted, and more than the Government have hitherto demanded, and Parliament and the people will have no adequate protection against that. It is an aspect of the question on which I have felt greatly for a long time. I feel sure we have not dwelt sufficiently upon it in this House. I know it is exercising the minds of men in the different industries throughout the country, and I do implore the Government to realise what they are doing and, at any rate, to give us some assurance of what is going to happen to all the great trades of the country.


I rise to do what I can to correct what, I think; is a misapprehension of what the Prime Minister said, and what the position in regard to unattested married men really is. I have listened to several speeches from hon. Friends on this side of the House during the last few minutes, and they seem to have formed the opinion, or, at any rate, persuaded themselves, that the Prime Minister, in referring to this question, made some definite statement that 200,000 men were all the men we wanted. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, he did."] I think not. I think what my right hon. Friend said was that, under the terms in which this Bill was framed, and in which the unattested married men were to be brought in, the estimate was that the number provided would be 200,000.


The Prime Minister definitely said that, provided we got 50,000 men by the end of May, and 15,000 a week afterwards till we got 200,000—that would be 200,000 by the second week in August—then there would be no necessity for compulsion at all.


If my hon. Friend will cast his mind back, he will see that the Prime Minister was dealing with a totally different problem. The Prime Minister then was trying to avoid compulsion. Does my hon. Friend really think that this War is likely to come to an end by next September? It is because we have got to look forward, because we cannot and dare not confine our attention to the present and shut our eyes to the future, that the Prime Minister found it necessary to introduce this Bill. My hon. Friend has admitted the whole of our contention that the Prime Minister realises that he must have a great deal more than 200,000, and if we must have more, is this House going to deny the provision of those who are necessary to bring the War to a successful conclusion? I do not believe it for a single moment. My hon. Friend said this Bill deprived Parliament of control over the numbers required, but it does nothing of the kind.


I think that was an overstatement.


My hon. Friend is an old and learned Member of the House of Commons, and he knows that Parliamentary control as regards numbers is exercised through the numbers voted, and the Government can no more exceed the numbers voted than they can do other things that they would like to do. What I want to show is that the Prime Minister in introducing this Bill gave the House clearly to understand that the men he expected to realise under the provisions of the Bill amounted to something like 200,000 under existing conditions, making due provision for those married men required for industry, and other reasons. Supposing, for the sake of argument, you were bringing in under this Bill a very much larger number than 200,000, and supposing it were found that you were unduly denuding the number which industry really requires. We have in this Bill the very means of returning those men to industry, and at the same time retaining a hold upon them, and calling them up for military service when they are required. What I want the House to do is to look at the question as a whole. I think we are a little inclined in these Debates to forget the paramount necessity of winning the War. That is a thing that must come first, and I do not think this House ought to grudge the men if the Government find it Necessary in the last resort. If the Government finds it necessary to put the last available man into the fighting line, the Government would fail in its duty if it did not do so. But that moment has not arrived yet, and I find nothing in what has been said which is at real variance with anything the Prime Minister has stated. With regard to what fell from my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Mr. Ashley), he stated that he was very desirable that industry should know how many men are going to be taken from industry, and he instanced the cotton trade of Lancashire. I quite sympathise with his view, and the point of view of industries generally, that it is most desirable to know how many men are going to be taken, but it is quite impossible for any particular industry to know exactly the number that is going to be taken from that industry. While I sympathise with my hon. Friend's point of view, I see nothing in what is taking place under existing conditions to lead the House to suppose that anything the Prime Minister has said has been departed from.


As another Lancashire Member I should like to identify myself with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Eochdale and the hon. Member for Blackpool. I do think that there ought to be some declaration on the part of the Government as to the conservation of a definite proportion of the men necessary to work our different industries. I am a Member for a large industrial constituency where the cotton trade is predominant, and I know quite as well as anybody in Lancashire, from my close connection with almost every town in that part of the country, that the cotton trade is suffering considerably from want of labour. You cannot say that recruiting in Lancashire has been anything but magnificent. I am a firm believer in compulsion, and I have always advocated national service, but without compulsion I find in the monthly report of recruiting for the East Lancashire Division that in officers we have got 141 per cent. for the second and third lines, whilst of men we have no smaller proportion than 97.63. Out of a possible establishment of 27,726 for these two divisions we have recruited no fewer than 27,127. That, of course, has meant that a very large number of men, principally employed in the cotton industry, have joined the Colours voluntarily, but I am afraid, unless the Government are careful in watching over the number of men taken from this industry we shall very soon reach a point when it will be impossible to carry on the cotton industry at all. I know it is important that we should win the War, and I do everything in my power to win it, but only second in importance to winning the War is being able to export goods in order to pay for the War. There is an old saying—I do not know whether it belongs to my county or not—that you cannot both eat your cake and have it, and I hope the Government in their honest endeavour to win the War will not attempt to eat their cake and have it, but do all they can to conserve the number of men which the cotton industry requires to run this great trade.


One cannot help feeling profound sympathy with hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate on behalf of such trades as the cotton trade of Lancashire. At the same time one cannot help remembering that the cotton trade, in fact no other trade, will be of any particular account, or of any use either to them or to us unless we can see our way through this War. The War is the first thing, and even the cotton trade must follow. I have been listening here to-night to the whole of this Debate on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), and I could not help feeling that in these appeals to the Prime Minister or to the Government to once more make something like a definite statement and take a definite line, they were making a mistake, because every time the Government has taken a definite line, and made a statement it has been wrong, and within a very few weeks, at all events within a few months, it has had to take it back. There is not a single sign either in the West or in the East that we have got the initiative, or taken the offensive, or that the Allies are in a position to do so. All estimates as to what we are going to do, and what will be wanted have been very rapidly falsified, and the Prime Minister has time after time been obliged to come to this House, and tell us that something more was required than even he had said a few weeks ago he would not be occupying that office if he had brought them forward.

I put it to the House: What would be the good of extracting figures out of the Prime Minister, even if he were to agree to give them? I am one of those who take the view that this Bill, at all events, is a great step towards providing the necessary military forces to enable this country to do some good in this War. I join in the congratulations to the Government upon this Bill. I hope the numbers will not be limited and that the Government will not yield on this Clause or on any Clause of this kind. I earnestly appeal to all my hon. Friends who, of course, are bound to say something in the House in support of particular industries in their constituencies—at all events in their actions if not in the words they address to the House—to forget those industries for the moment and to concentrate on the one thing which is necessary, and that is to try and get sufficient military forces. I wish to Heaven I could add to try and get the necessary brains to lead them which would result in our seeing in some portion of our operations a little daylight, a little initiative, and a little offensive. Let us therefore address ourselves single-minded to making this Bill as effective as possible so as to secure the only object which we really have now got before us.


The hon. Member who has just sat down said that the Government ought to resist this Clause, because every time it has attempted to take any definite line that line has been discovered to be quite wrong. If that is true—and it is very largely true—it is all the more reason why we should discover now if the Government in this matter is exercising any kind of foresight at all, because foresight surely is important in a matter of this kind. I do not know what impression was conveyed to the minds of hon. Members, but the impression conveyed to my mind by the statements of the Prime Minister was that some kind of general survey had been taken by the various Departments—probably including the Board of Trade—of the financial and industrial needs of the country, and that the opinion had been arrived at that something like 200,000 and not many more need be spared from industry. I do wish the Home Secretary had tackled the argument, which is quite a serious argument, instead of replying with some mere verbal debating which was really unworthy of his ability. He ought to have tackled the much wider issue that has been raised by many Members, including representatives of the textile industry, as to whether the Government are really facing the all-round problem and whether they are exercising any kind of foresight in this matter, or are living from day to day and from hand to mouth as they have done in so many directions since the War began. Many of our military expeditions have gone to various places without the necessary foresight and planning, and we are asking whether the Government in regard to the military needs has taken an all-round survey of the country or whether they really believe that this country at one and the same moment can be a great naval power, a great military power, a great industrial power, and a great financial power, with a constantly expanding Army. It is really a matter which the Government ought to take into account.

The argument of the Home Secretary seemed to be that the tribunals will settle all these questions. Even if they were much more wise than they are—and some of them are not very wise—the tribunals have not got the material or the data to settle a question of this kind. It is only the Government, through its Departments, like the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Munitions, the Admiralty, and so on, that can settle this problem and can take a wide range of all the matters involved. It is, therefore, for the Government to say more clearly than they have yet said how many men can be spared. It is absolutely certain that large numbers of the men who will come under this measure are going to be far more expensive soldiers than has been the case up to the present. We have had the various lobbies and corridors today crowded with small shopkeepers and business people who are afraid that under this Act their businesses are going to be ruined. The Government have admitted the force of the appeal by making special provisions which ought to have been made ac the beginning of the War, because the hardship in regard to many of these people is no greater than it was in regard to many who went earlier. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is never too late to mend!"] Sometimes it is too late even to mend. In view of all the needs of the cotton industry, of shipping, of transport, and so on, it is important that we should have a far clearer declaration of the intentions of the Government than we have had up to the present.


After the many admirable speeches which we have heard tonight we are really entitled to a better answer than the perfunctory speeches which we have already heard. We have been told, for instance, by the First Lord of the Admiralty that he is not satisfied that he has got sufficient men. Is the Minister of Munitions satisfied that he has sufficient men? Where is the President of the Board of Trade now that the very essence of this Bill is before the House? Some reference has been made to the lack of shipping facilities. I have in my hand the figures which were given by Lord Charles Beresford in another place, and I think they are most significant. He stated that when the War started we had 11,353 working vessels of over 100 tons. Taking the Admiralty requirements as between two and three thousand that left 8,553 vessels to carry on the trade of the country. By war losses 860 of these had gone, and to those losses they had to add the normal losses of ships by shipwreck, fire, and condemnation, amounting to something like 340. That gives a total loss since the War began of 1,200 vessels. Taking the 1,200 vessels from the total number of vessels at the beginning of the war, we get now only 7,653 vessels to carry on our existing trade. This is not a question of a Vote of Confidence in the Government. It is a matter on which we must exercise our own judgment, and when the Home Secretary asks us to place our confidence in himself and his colleagues—and I admit that I have great admiration for him—I submit that, in view of these facts, and in view of the fact that the right hon. Gentlemen are very busy men, and that they have enormous calls upon their attention, it is rather too much to ask this House to imagine that any body of gentlemen, however capable, are able to supervise the great industries of this country, and to know the exact moment when they are to bring men back from the front and put them into industry again. It is equally impossible to imagine that one can conduct the great industries of the country at short notice and move men about as on a chess board. That is, to my mind, a super-human task.

In the Committee stage, when the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Hume-Williams) suggested an extension of the powers of this Bill, the President of the Local Government Board made an admirable speech in reply, in which he showed that even if the age for service was increased to forty-five it would not have a satisfactory result, because there was not a large additional number of men who could be obtained thereby. There is a shortage of labour and a shortage of ships, and we have now 1,200 vessels fewer than at the commencment of the War to carry on an extending trade. It is more necessary now to keep up the export trade of the country, remembering further that the measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has adopted for mobilising American securities, and thereby affecting the exchange, must come to an end, and you will have to rely more and more on your export trade in order to meet an increasing burden. I say in these circumstances it is too much to ask us to give a blank cheque to the Government—to give it powers to an unlimited extent in dealing with this question. It has been suggested that hon. Members are not alive to the importance of bringing this War to a satisactory conclusion. I absolutely deny that. I listened to the speeches of hon. Gentleman opposite, representing the cotton and other great industries, and I say that those hon. Members are just as patriotic and just as anxious to bring the War to a satisfactory conclusion as the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who made that suggestion. It is not because we are less anxious than he to secure that end that we urge these views. It is because of the light which the Creator has given us, and because of the judgment we possess, that we think this measure for drawing additional men from the industries of the country is inexpedient. We believe it may place in jeopardy our financial and other powers for successfully carrying out this War, and it is because that is our belief that we ask the Government for some assurance that they are bearing these matters in mind. The President of the

Local Government Board has already admitted the necessity of safeguarding the withdrawal of men from industries.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 37; Noes, 193.

Division No. 17.] AYES. [9.50 p.m.
Abraham, Rt. Hon. William Jowett, Frederick William Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Anderson, W. C. Kenyon, Barnet Rowntree, Arnold
Baker, J. A. (Finsbury, E.) King, Joseph Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Sherwell, Arthur James
Buxton, Noel Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Byles, Sir William Pollard Mason, David M. (Coventry) Snowden, Philip
Chancellor, Henry George Molteno, Percy Alport Thomas James Henry
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Morrell, Philip Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Outhwaite, R. L. Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Hinds, John Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Hogge, James Myles Pringle, William M. R.
John, Edward Thomas Radford, George Heynes TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe) Richards, Thomas Mr. Holt and Mr. Arnold.
Ashley, Wilfrid W. George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Markham, Sir Arthur Basil
Baird, John Lawrence Gilbert, J. D. Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Baldwin, Stanley Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Gretton, John Middlebrook, William
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G. Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Gulland, John William Millar, James Duncan
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) Molteno, Percy Alport
Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N. Hancock, John George Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza
Barrie, H. T. Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Morgan, George Hay
Beale, Sir William Phipson Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert
Bellairs, Commander C. W. Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.) Neville, Reginald J. N.
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.) Newdegate, F. A.
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Helme, Sir Norval Watson Nield, Herbert
Bethell, Sir J. H. Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham) Norton-Griffiths, J.
Black, Arthur W. Henry, Sir Charles Parker, James (Halifax)
Blair, Reginald Hewart, Gordon Parry, Thomas H.
Bowden, Major G. R. Harland Hibbert, Sir Henry F. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Bowerman, Charles W. Hodge, John Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Boyton, James Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Perkins, Walter Frank
Brace, William Holmes, Daniel Turner Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)
Broughton, Urban Hanlon Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Pollock, Ernest Murray
Bryce, J. Annan Horne, Edgar Pratt, J. W.
Carew, Charles R. S. Houston Robert Paterson Pretyman, Ernest George
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George Hume-Williams, William Ellis Prothero, Rowland Edmund
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Hunt, Major Rowland Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. Raffan, Peter Wilson
Clive, Captain Percy Archer Illingworth, Albert H. Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Clynes, John R. Ingleby, Holcombe Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Cochrane, Cecil Algernon Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. Rees, G. C.
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Jacobsen, Thomas Owen Rees, Sir J. D.
Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Rendall, Athelstan
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) Richardson, Albion (Peckham)
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Craik, Sir Henry Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Currie, George W. Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M.
Dalrymple, Hon. H. H. Joynson-Hicks, William Robinson, Sidney
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Larmor, Sir J. Roe, Sir Thomas
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Rowlands, James
Dixon, C. H. Layland-Barrett, Sir F. Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwen)
Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B. Levy, Sir Maurice Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Salter, Arthur Clavell
Edge, Captain William Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Fell, Arthur Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey M'Callum, Sir John M. Shortt, Edward
Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Stanton, Charles Butt
Fletcher, John Samuel Mackinder, Halford J. Stewart Gershom
Forster, Henry William M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding) Sutherland, John E.
Foster, Philip Staveley M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Swift, Rigby
Galbraith, Samuel Macmaster, Donald Sykes, Col. Alan John (Knutsford)
Gastrell, Lt.-Col W. Houghton Magnus, Sir Philip Talbot, Lord Edmund
Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John Wardle, George J. Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart.
Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.) Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T. Yate, Colonel C. E.
Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton) Weston, John W. Yeo, Alfred William
Thorne, William (West Ham) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.) Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Tickler, T. G. Whittaker, Rt. Hen. Sir Thomas P. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Toulmin, Sir George Wiles, Thomas
Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince) Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid) Wood, John (Stalybridge) Mr. Bridgeman and Mr. Beck.

The next Clauses standing in the name of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) [Appeal Tribunal Decisions to Conform with Central Tribunal Decisions; Certificates to Extend to Objection to All Military Service; Imprisonment in a Public Prison and Recognition that the Man has not Enlisted on Failure to Observe Terms of Certificate of Exemption; Conscientious Objection to Extend to All Military Service; Procedure in Cases of Conscientious Objection] have already been disposed of. The first Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) [Extension of Compulsory Military Service] is practically a redrafting of Clause 1. Clause 1 is entitled to remain until it is disposed of. The next three Clauses [Enlistment of Irish Rebels; Amendment of Section 48 of Army Act; Amendment of Section 12 of Army Act] are beyond the scope of the Bill. The last Clause at the bottom of page 111 [Amendment of Subsection (2) of Section 1 of the Principal Act] has practically been discussed. The next Clause [Restriction on Discharge from the Army of Persons Suffering from Venereal Disease] is beyond the scope of the Bill, and the same observation applies to the next two Clauses [Execution of Persons Subject to Military Law upon Conviction by Court-Martial; Restriction on Sentences by District Courts-Martial]. The new Clause with regard to the Amendment of Section 2 (1) (b) of principal Act raises the same question as the new Clause of which notice has been given by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets Division (Mr. Yeo). I think it would be better raised there.


On that point, may I respectfully suggest that my new Clause is very much wider than that on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets Division? It clearly embraces a great number of cases which would never come under his Clause at all, and I respectfully submit that I should be allowed to move it.


If the hon. Member insists upon his right, of course he is entitled to move it, but it may destroy the chances of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets Division.